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YOUNG SILENCE BREAKERS

A US middle school banned its students from talking about sexual misconduct on a news broadcast

Hanna Kozlowska
By Hanna Kozlowska

Investigative reporter

Student-journalists in southern California have decided to stop broadcasting morning news after their school asked them to self-censor. In particular, they say, Coronado Middle School objected to student reporting on the wave of sexual harassment allegations that dominate US headlines.

According to one of the students, Catherine, 13 (who is also my cousin), the young journalists were already under pressure from the administration for talking about such issues as mass shootings during their program. The television broadcast’s Nov. 29 news summary noted that the list of powerful American men who had been accused of “sexual misconduct,” was growing. This reportedly sparked complaints from parents, and the students were asked to “soften” the broadcast. Instead, they decided to cancel the segment altogether.

Note: The below clip is erroneous in its reporting that the students were banned from broadcasting the segment:

The students say they were tired of fighting with the administration, and felt censored. “This is wrong because not everyone has enough time to look at headlines every day,” Catherine said. “We’re not trying to give our own opinions, we’re trying to give the facts so people can form their own opinions.” By mentioning the sexual misconduct news, she said they wanted to show that there were indeed consequences for “bad things” that people do, and it was relevant because it “starts in high school.” 

“We thought it was really important to put it on the news, because that was the most important news that day,” she said. Indeed, it seems difficult to ask student journalists to avoid reporting about a watershed societal moment that will surely shape their future. Just a few days later, the ”silence breakers” that started it all were honored as Time magazine’s “Person of the Year.”

The show airs live every morning, and is broadcast in every classroom. The current events summary can take less than a minute, the rest is filled with school and community news.

My uncle, who said his daughter would wake up in the wee hours of the morning to prepare for the program and read about current events, is among the parents who are protesting the school’s approach. “I support my daughter entirely, and I think she is 100% right,” he told me. “In the 21st century, if we want it or not, we have to talk about these things.” 

As their final broadcast, the students read the following statement:

The KCMS News Team will sadly no longer be broadcasting current events of national and international importance. This comes after alleged complaints by parents and faculty. It is our sincere hope that each of you will continue to seek to be well informed about important events and issues occurring in our world—understand the multiple perspectives from which these are viewed—and in doing so become better educated.  It is through education—in all its forms—that makes us better citizens of our community, nation and world.

After the development was reported (with errors) by a local ABC News affiliate, the school said the segment would be resumed in the new year, portraying the issue as a misunderstanding. A message sent to parents and students from the administration says that the school is talking to the KCMS teacher about how to “ensure age and grade level appropriate content in the news.”

Quartz reached out to the principal for comment.

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